I just wanted to be clear about one thing here, in the midst of a bunch
of thought-provoking ideas:
On Fri, 20 Oct 1995, Anthony Pare wrote:
> I'm reluctant to offer advice to Richard on this issue of "offensive"
> opinions in the composition class, simply because no two incidents are
> the same. Sometimes postions we experience as offensive are deeply
> held, other times they are merely received and unexamined opinion - the
> unopened baggage our students bring to school. In the latter case,
> exposing the idea to others, as Marcy and other have suggested, can
> have a powerful "curative" effect.
I didn't mean to suggest that exposing Rick's student's paper to
other students wpuld have a "curative" effect on the writer -- or indeed
that I think it's our position as teachers to "cure." I was trying to
say that having others read the paper might turn the question from one of
ideology to one of rhetorical strategy: the writer might see that if you
hold a position that's contrary to the majority opinion (no matter what
that position is, and whether or not I agree with it), you need to employ
different rhetorical strategies if you're going to express it in ways
that don't make your readers tune you out.
Anthony's questions are helpful for me as I think about this:
What is our place in the
> discourse of the classroom? Are we arbiters of taste, ideology, fact?
> Where are we positioned in the flow of written and spoken classroom
> texts? Do they flow to us? Through us? Who/what are the texts for?
> How do we read/hear them - that is, what is our stance toward them?
-- because I think that to the degree that the discourse flows to
& through us, we become unable to make value judgements that _aren't_
seen by our students as attempts to "cure" them of their particular
ideological ills. And I agree with Anthony that our role as evaluators
complicates this issue (and all our issues.)
I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of trying to change
students' ideologies, and I'm almost equally troubled by letting their
ideologies go unchallenged if they're offensive to me. The first
instance strikes me as a teacherly discomfort; the second seems a human
discomfort (I _want_ to refute opinions I disagree with.) What's
interesting to me are the moments when I feel my responsibilities as a
teacher conflicting with my reactions as a reader. This conflict doesn't
seem right to me; in the best of all possible worlds, I think, I
wouldn't feel it. But at those moments I usually feel that if I squash my
readerly response, I'm doing the writer before me a disservice (because
the writer won't get to see how moved I am); and yet, if I come on too
strong as a reader, I'll lose my effectiveness as a teacher and
advice-giver. So I wonder, am I missing something? Are the roles of
teacher and reader really so incompatible? And am I naive to think I can
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